Category Archives: 2009

Annual conference of the American Library Association, held in Chicago, IL July 9-15, 2009.

BIGWIG Social Software Showcase 2009

The Social Software Showcase, presented by LITA’s BIGWIG, is a chance to learn about several different areas of software in a quick, efficient way. The way it works is that the content for the showcase is voted on beforehand, and presentations are created for that content. The presentations are made available online on the Social Software Showcase page. The presenters and their topics are briefly introduced at the beginning of the showcase, then the attendees are given the opportunity to visit each of the presenters to discuss their topic for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the attendees rotate and move on to the next topic. This provides the opportunity for attendees to visit each of the presenters or, as in my case, attend as many presentations as fit into their available time. The four which I attended were mobile websites and applications, information mashups with government information, cloud computing, and Google Wave.

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Summer Reading Online

This ALA 2009 session started with Carole D. Fiore, the moderator, showing the efficacy of Summer Reading programs. Most telling was slide #8:
There is a marked acheivement gap in reading for low-income students who do not attend Summer school
SRPs play a vital role in communities, providing literacy achievement while school is not in session. It is not surprising, then, that 95.2% of public libraries have some form of Summer Reading.

You can find the slides, handout, and follow-up Q&A at the ALA Presentations page.

All of the panelists touched on some common themes:

  • Tracking – Electronic data is easier to manage and parse for usage statistics. Even if registration or logging isn’t in the cards, a small database or even spreadsheet is a big help for keeping staff administrative tasks organized. Well-structured data is a great way to glean statistics for LSTA justifications and the like
  • Apprehension- whether it be staff with doubts about difficulty and usefulness, or a perception that patrons would not buy into an online component as much as hoped. The consensus was that online registration/tracking was easy-to-use and productive, and that staff bought in after a short while
  • Paper – It is possible to eliminate paper registration and logs altogether with an all-online program; however, the panelists still had varying degrees of paper usage. In this sense, online programs are additive to the traditional SRP. As Irmgarde Brown said:

    It’s not about either/or, it’s about ‘and.’

    Paper provides access to those without computers or computer skills, and log printouts are a simple way to manage redeeming prizes

  • Scale – commercial products can be a poor organizational fit for both small and large applications. Small libraries cannot afford the software, while consortia may have needs greater than the scale of some commercial designs. Luckily, homebrew systems proved possible and capable in both scenarios, though with sacrifices of features or support

Altogether, the introduction of online components correlated to increased participation at all four panelists’ libraries/systems. Among the many benefits:

  • Resource sharing – one or more libraries can invest in an online Summer Reading Program and spread the benefit to other libraries
  • Less paper and other overhead
  • Simplicity lends to choice in programming language and DBMS. Choices ranged from ColdFusion to PHP, and from Access to MySQL
  • Ease and incentive for increased community partnership (ie. Maureen Ambrosino’s example of cooperating with the Boston Bruins to the satisfaction of all)

I was surprised by one positive side-effect of the efficient online systems: possible non-summer programs:
Short video explaining Winter Reading Program

This was an excellent session, and the supplemental materials are great. I’m grateful that
Carole D. Fiore of Training and Library Consulting
Eric Sisler from Westminster Public Library
Maureen Ambrosino of Central Massachusetts Regional Library System
Rosanne Cerny from Queens Library
Irmgarde Brown of Harford County Public Library
put such effort into informing us about their impressive successes.

I will follow up with an Online Summer Reading round-up for those interested in the various software packages available. In the mean time, I’d be happy to track down answers to any questions in the comments. Likewise, if you know of some great free or commercial OSRP software packages, please also make note of them in the comments as well. Thanks!

Has Library 2.0 Fulfilled its Promise?

Title of conference program: The Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 Fulfilled its Promise?
Speakers: Meredith Farkas, Cindi Trainor, David Lee King, Michael Porter; moderated by Roy Tennant.
Monday July 13, 2009; 1:30 – 3 pm; McCormick Place West, W-181
Sponsor: Internet Resources and Services Interest Group (IRSIG)

This program was presented as a debate, with Roy posing questions for the panel.

The room for this presentation was huge, and the room was packed with librarians!  We were seated shoulder to shoulder, with nary an open chair in the room.

Roy’s first question was “What does Library 2.0 mean to you?”  Here are the panelists’ responses:

Cindi:

  • it’s not only a set of tools, but also a philosophy
  • helps create space that welcome participation by users

Michael:

  • it’s what libraries do to fulfill our roles as community and information anchors
  • it’s a plethora of tools that can help libraries become more relevant

Meredith:

  • it’s about being user-focused
  • seeing the creation of library services as an iterative process
  • constantly assessing services to make sure they meet the needs of our customers

David:

  • not just new tools, but also…
  • a new philosophy, a new way to do things

Michael:

  • let’s not focus on brands (like Twitter or wikis), lets focus on what these tools can do for us
  • Michael read some of the tweets he received as replies to his tweet http://twitter.com/libraryman/status/2617070771

Second question: what is a Library 2.0 technology?

Meredith:

  • technology that allows us to build communities and communicate with each other
  • technology that allows us to form relationships with people who are bits and bytes online

David:

  • a way to move content from one place to another, like RSS
  • “made to connect me to you”
  • “if the technology works, it doesn’t get in the way”

Michael:

  • a problem with 2.0 technology is “it’s hard to know what to use”
  • it’s hard to track the success of your institution’s success with 2.0 tools, in the report formats libraries typically have to submit
  • Michael is working to put together something to help libraries track the success of their use of 2.0 tools

David:

  • stated we have stats from blogs, and can see the number of Facebook friends/fans
  • some of these tools will track stats, show engagement — but these tools cost money; he mentioned Radian6 as one of these for-fee tools

Cindi:

  • how can you track engagement, how can you track the impact your library has on a person’s life?

Meredith:

  • it’s important to look at how to do an assessment of 2.0 tool usage at your library

Michael:

  • reports to supervisors are primarily numbers; anecdotal evidence and emotional impact is difficult to report

Third question: what are some of the barriers you to see to libraries adopting some of these Library 2.0 tools?

Meredith:

  • “we’re entrusting our knowledge our hard work to 3rd party sites that might not be there in the future”
  • companies that exist now, might not in the future
  • she cited ma.gnolia as an example of a social bookmarking service that’s no longer in existence
  • libraries aren’t planning for how they can have backup copies of their stuff
  • they need to ask if the company is stable, and if their info will still be there a couple of years from now

Cindi:

  • don’t be afraid to experiment, but take a risk-management approach

David:

  • it’s very easy to set up a free blog, but the bigger barrier is you need to immerse yourself in a tool to learn it
  • having a person in charge of a 2.0 tool, but when that person leaves, what to do about the orphaned blog or wiki that’s left behind

Michael:

  • concerned that libraries are being usurped by commercial companies
  • libraries don’t have the money to compete with content and delivery suppliers like NetFlix
  • the relevance of libraries is at risk
  • as an industry, we need to do something to not get cut out of the market share

Meredith:

  • time is a challenge — we’re being asked to do new stuff, but none of our other tasks have been taken away
  • just because they’re free tools doesn’t mean we don’t need to plan for them

Michael:

  • “use these tools to show how awesome you are” and share that with your community

Meredith:

  • admins should be gviing staff time to staff to do these things at work, not on your own personal time

Fourth question: Can we point to some successes of 2.0 technologies and principles?

Michael:

Meredith:

  • Chad Boeninger of Ohio University
  • Business Blog and Biz Wiki
  • when he knows an assignment is coming up, he puts the info up on his blog
  • a photo of his face is all over his blog and wiki, so students recognize him and know they can apporoach him
  • Skokie PL’s SkokieNet: a community-driven online portal for people who live in and care about Skokie

Roy:

Cindi:

  • pockets of innovation within a library are using Flickr, wikis, etc.

David:

  • encouraged supervisors to “let your staff go with it”

Meredith:

  • “these technogies are not a magic wand”
  • avoid technolust; stick with the tools that will give your customers what they need

Michael:

  • if you stick with your mssion and role in your community, you can use 2.0 tools to support it

Cindi:

  • it’s important to have awareness of the tools so when a need arises, you have a 2.0 tool that can fit a situation

ALA Session – Resuscitating the Catalog: Next-Generation Strategies for Keeping the Catalog Relevant

This session was sponsored by ALCTS Collection Management and Development Section (CMDS), RUSA : RSS Catalog Use Committee and LITA Next Gen Catalog Interest Group.

Program Description: In today’s complex information environment, users have come to expect evaluative information and interactive capabilities when searching for information resources. A panel of experts will address various aspects of providing links to external information in library catalogs, implementing user-contributed functionality, and using computational data to support bibliographic control.

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Content Management Systems in Libraries: Opportunities and Lessons Learned

Jonathan Blackburn, Eli Neiburger, Karen Coombs (absent due to illness)

Jonathan Blackburn
Jonathan Blackburn

Jonathan Blackburn was formerly employed as the “web guy” at Florida State University (FSU). He currently is the Product Analyst at OCLC. Blackburn explained why a content management system (CMS) would be useful to create library websites: They’re good for collaboration and efficiency, though they can result in an incoherent representation due to collaborative work. CMSs matter to libraries because they can leverage library staff and potentially reduce costs.

Uses and applications of a CMS include a public-facing website, staff intranet, digital library (asset management), and one-off projects (events, programs). If your library wants to try out a CMS for the first time, events or programs are a great excuse to see if a CMS is the right fit for your organization.

CMSs create unique challenges for libraries. They need to allow for different “types” of content (hours, events, databases), to be usable for people at different levels of expertise (different comfort levels in regards to technology), to be interoperable between systems (catalog, course management software, etc.), and to remain consistent for institutional branding or navigation (to follow guidelines set by the parent institution).

Jonathan Blackburn went on to illustrate FSU’s use of dynamic content on their website and their switch to content management systems.

  • 2005: Static HTML and custom PHP/MySQL
  • 2006: Drupal and custom PHP/MySQL
  • 2007: Redesign and MediaWiki subject guides
  • 2008: Staff intranet (Drupal)
  • 2009: Migration to Drupal (unfinished) and LibGuides

He offers 6 lessons from his experience with content management systems at FSU:

  1. Start with a content management plan: who does what, when, and how often (and how are they accountable)
  2. Get staff input: find out what your content creators want
  3. Secure support from administration: if they’re not behind it, it will never happen
  4. Choose right tool(s) for the job: if it doesn’t meet the organization needs, don’t use it, no matter how “cool” it is
  5. Be flexible and embrace workarounds
  6. Outsource when possible

Lastly, Blackburn offers future opportunities for content management systems.

  • Library “profiles”: CMSs built specifically for libraries and their needs
  • Hosted solutions: “putting stuff in the cloud”
  • Interoperability: “glue that can tie stuff together”

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In Defense of SciFi

The session “Science Fiction and Fantasy: Uncovering the modern world of information through metaphor and imagination” sponsored by Tor and Baen publishers featured Robert Charles Wilson, Ken Scholls, Margaret Weiss, John Brown and Eric Flint.  All the authors expressed varying degrees of confusion regarding the topic of discussion, but their talks yielded surprisingly similar insights.

Robert Charles Wilson spoke first.  He used his latest novel, Julian Comstock, A Story of 22nd Century America, to illustrate his belief in the power of knowledge over ignorance and the idea that information “wants to be free.”  He argues science fiction requires participation in the questions of society, culture and technology.

Ken Scholls analogized science fiction and fantasy as a tent show performed by the likes of Tom Bombadil, Paul Atreides and Dorothy Gale.  He spoke of the power of science fiction and fantasy to transport and transform.

Margaret Weiss spoke of the author’s place in society.  An author should tell stories, the people’s stories.  She believes fantasy especially allows her to tell the stories of real people in extraordinary situations.  She offered the example of a character in her fantasy world who is an alcoholic in a culture where the tavern is the primary gathering place.  He lost his family, his home and his livelihood due to his alcoholism.  In the course of the novel he tries to recover some of what he has lost.  Weiss hopes this character’s story may help a young person better understand his alcoholic parent.

John Brown followed Margaret Weiss positing that reading is a drug.  Readers thirst and hunger for reading and that the physical response resulting from reading is not just analogous but the same as the physical response a drug user feels.  He hopes that his work gives young people a first taste of the reading drug and that they will be hooked for life.

Eric Flint approached the subject differently. He argued Contemporary Literary Fiction has lost its way.  Modern literary fiction requires extreme realism with “ordinary people in ordinary circumstances that they handle extremely badly.”  He argues that true literary tradition extends through Homer and Shakespeare who were not bound to realism and engaged in thought experiments with “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances they handle well.”  He expressed disdain for the need felt by some to defend science fiction and fantasy and commented that if the definitions of genre fiction were applied to Moby Dick it would be in the science fiction section because “no whale that ever lived would act like that.”

The entire session was engaging.  The authors gave us some food for thought and plenty of encouragement.  I thoroughly enjoyed the session.

Open Library Environment Project (OLE) ALA session

I attended this session on Saturday morning. For those not familiar with OLE it is a project to build an open ILS using service oriented architecture and business modelling. The presenters were Robert H. McDonald (Indiana Univ.), Carlen Ruschoff (Univ. of Maryland), Beth Forrest-Warner (Univ. of Kansas), and John Little (Duke Univ.). The project is just finishing its planning phase and its draft document can be accessed at their website oleproject.org While the end product hopes to be an open source ILS right now the project is formed as a community source entity – like an open source but with members that have made committments and thus formed a community dedicated to the project, unlike an open source where one main player hopes others will join in and form a community. It seems to me that the community source approach ensures something will come out of the project. Some of the basic concepts are that instead of having an ILS that has to get files of data downloaded from other systems on your campus – feeds from HR or the registrar or from Banner – it would just connect live to that data and read it, use it, confirm it and then provide the service you need the data for. This would make campus systems less redundant and have operations work in real time. It does use kuali as middleware and so those interested might want to check out http://kuali.org. The timetable for development is 30 months from now to having a product. Partners are still being sought and an advantage to partnering is having a say in the development schedule. Partners do have to commit money, time, some expertise, and make a committment to operate some part of the system. Right now the monetary cost per year at 7 partners would be $185K/yr but more partners would lower the cost for all.

Science Fiction and Fantasy: Uncovering the Modern World of Information, Society, and Technology through Metaphor and Imagination

Science Fiction and Fantasy: Uncovering the Modern World of Information, Society, and Technology through Metaphor and Imagination

Saturday, 7/11/09

This 20th anniversary meeting of the Imagineering Interest Group was a well-run affair featuring free books, entertaining stories, and good-humored pandering towards librarians. The packed house thoroughly enjoyed themselves listening to TOR authors speak about metaphor, imagination, the state of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, and the power of libraries.

Robert Charles Wilson gave an intriguing synopsis of his upcoming book set in a world run by a theological governing body. His protagonist, in the process of attempting to promote a sense of secularism, ends up creating a free library. While writing the book he said he needed to re-invent religion in America, a process he says “made me into a theologian, although I never volunteered for the post.” Wilson said that a recurring and powerful theme in Science Fiction is the “persistence of the book as well as the liberating power of information.”

Ken Scholes writes across many genres but was most influenced by Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. He said that as a boy Science Fiction and Fantasy gave him a foster home, something to dream of, and essentially raised him. He recounted how as a young teenager he attempted to work in the local library repeatedly until he was finally of the legal age to work (16 in Washington state) at which point he was hired immediately. He also presented a mashed up narration with multiple characters, themes, and story lines from the readings of his youth saying this was how he was raised. He said he grew up reaching for heaven and found Oz, Middle Earth, and Mars among other worlds.

Margaret Weis told the story about how she got started in writing back when TSR first began Dungeons and Dragons. She realized “I could write those stories” and did so. She told her favorite anecdote about being a five year old in the public library who wandered into the adult section and found a copy of The Doll’s House. But the librarian wouldn’t let her check it out by saying “this isn’t about what you think it’s about.” She also related the story about how “writer’s are the ones who put on the bear skin and dance around the fire telling the people’s stories” which is all she’s ever wanted to do. For her, Science Fiction and Fantasy is not escapism, but a way to think about real life issues, but from a different perspective.

John Brown presented a compelling argument that Science Fiction and Fantasy is a “gateway drug” to literacy for youth. He related that the NEA has shown that in 2008 reading rates have increased and by the most in the 18-24 age group. Asking Bookscan if they had data to  go along with that, they provided the intriguing statistic that Science Fiction and Fantasy reading soared by 144% in roughly the same time period for juvenile readers. He said that for the young Science Fiction and Fantasy allows encounters with the “strange, weird, and wonderful.” He also said that the genre was big enough that it’s allowed him to explore more adult themes as he’s aged.

Eric Flint explored the reasons “Science Fiction and Fantasy” authors (and presumably readers) feel compelled to justify themselves in a “hostile literary world.” He maintained that the genre deals with “ordinary people placed into extraordinary circumstances which they deal with very well.” He contrasted this with a more literary view of storytelling that consists of “ordinary people placed into extraordinary circumstances which they deal with very poorly.” He wondered why Moby Dick isn’t placed into the fantasy genre because “no whales act like that.” But in the end he admitted that he, and other authors, depend on librarians to a large degree for his living because new authors are found through sharing and from libraries.

There were no questions from the audience as folks hurriedly lined up for author signatures. A line that extended out into the hall.

Author Biographies:

John Brown

Eric Flint

Ken Scholes

Margaret Weis

Robert Charles Wilson